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DVD Review -- Delmark's 55 Years show at Legends


Delmark Celebrates 55 Years of Blues at Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago

Various Artists

 Delmark DVD art

By James Porter

There's an old Roosevelt Sykes album, Feel Like Blowing My Horn, where he concludes one song ("I'm A Nut") by declaring: "I must be a nut recording for Bob Koester at Delmark Records! Mercy, mercy!" Last year, Koester and Delmark celebrated their 55th anniversary at Buddy Guy's Legends, and Jimmy Johnson's testimonial was just as touching: "We hope Mr. Bob Koester be in the business another fifty-five years...long as he gonna record me and give me a bunch of money up front!" You can see Jimmy, and quite a few other artists from the Delmark stable, in It Ain't Over!, which documents the concert as it happened the night of March 7, 2008. The recording is also available on CD.

 While none of the acts are outlandishly visual - save for Tail Dragger - there is still is something to be said for seeing musicians lay into their craft as it happens. Eddie Shaw, seated front and center, peels off one good sax riff after another. Harp player/vocalist Little Arthur Duncan, like Shaw, spends most of his set sitting down, but not before we get to see him get in some hip grinds (Duncan passed away only months later). Pianist Aaron Moore's left hand is so strong that you don't miss a bass player (Kenny Smith plays drums on one of Moore's tunes, and that's all  the accompaniment you hear). Guitarist/vocalist Jimmy Johnson does a couple of intensely-felt numbers in the West Side vein. The usually-great guitarist Lurrie Bell is heard doing "Don't You Lie To Me" and "Reconsider Baby."  While these songs aren't exactly "set list from hell" material, they do get covered often. (But I'll admit, I can still go for a good "Reconsider" every now and then).  Blues singers Zora Young and Shirley Johnson do a fine job of offering a powerful female perspective. The DVD’s title is taken from Young’s upbeat original song “Til The Fat Lady Sings.” Johnson puts her own emotional take on the sorrowful classic “As The Years Go Passing By.”

The gravel-voiced Tail Dragger, who is known for his up-close and personal interaction with female audience members, can be seen playfully warning Chicago Blues Guide  photog Jennifer Wheeler to mind her own business (on "Tend To Your Business"). The backup band’s personnel changes throughout the event and includes catchy cameos by harp maestro Billy Branch, plus guitarists Dave Specter, Nick Moss, Scott Cable, Rick Kreher and Kevin Shanahan. Bassist Bob Stroger and drummer Kenny Smith anchor the mighty rhythm section for most of the evening, while Roosevelt Purifoy adds his soulful touch to the keyboard on many songs.

There's also a commentary track featuring Koester's own views of the show and its stars. If one has to be a "nut" (as Roosevelt Sykes says) to record for Bob Koester, then Delmark must be the original Soul Asylum.  The It Ain’t Over DVD displays a fun-filled night with some of the label’s finest “cases.”


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